eight is his best fish so far, about 3lbs, and it culls out a smaller bass. He estimates that he’s sitting at around 10 or 11lbs.
9:45 a.m. I ask Chris what weight he is looking for in this area and if he plans on leaving once he reaches it. “Fifteen pounds would be a great start to the Bassmaster Classic,” he replies as he keeps fan casting the tube to emergent cover.
9:50 a.m. Chris hangs the tube on a stump and has to lift up his Power Poles to go in and free it.
9:53 a.m. Keeper number nine thumps the tube as Chris brings it past a dead pad stalk. It won’t help so he tosses it back.
9:55 a.m. “A 7 or 8 pounder would sure be a nice surprise right now,” Chris calls out to Crews, as he steadily saturates the cover with his tube.
9:57 a.m. The water temperature in this backwater has climbed up to 61 degrees, and Crews and Chris amicably dis- cuss whether there are any big ones in this area. Their consen- sus is that the fish want to get on the bed, so they should be able to sort through the little ones and get a few better fish.
9:59 a.m. Chris feels a tap on the tube, sets the hook and quickly boats keeper number 10. Another good fish, it goes 2.75 lbs and will cull another one of the earlier keepers. “This would be a great day to bust a big sack,” he announces as he culls out the smaller fish.
10:10 a.m. Flipping the Ugly Otter next to a stump, Chris catches keeper number 11, about 2 lbs. It won’t help his cause as he appears to be inching toward 12lbs.
10:15 a.m. Mobility in this shallow backwater is a chal- lenge. About every five minutes, one of the anglers has to un- hang himself from a stump or submerged piece of wood.
10:20 a.m. Chris and Crews are still side by side as they come to the end of the cut. They agree to turn around and slowly fish out the same way they came in. Chris continues fan casting and slowly working the tube along the bottom.
10:24 a.m. Chris gets a bump, and sets the hook into keeper number 12, another smaller fish that he quickly pitches back into the water.
10:28 a.m. A big fish grabs the tube as Chris hops it next to a stump. He jerks back and plays the fish but it hangs up in some wood. He patiently keeps pressure on the fish as it surges in the snag and eventually it comes free. Lying on the back deck, Chris lips the giant bass. Keeper number 13 looks to be close to 5lbs and Chris is shaking as he determines which fish to replace. No excessive celebration though -- he simply hops up front and continues fishing.
10:32 a.m. Chris hauls back on another fish and after al- lowing it to come free from the pad stalks, flips it into the boat. Keeper number 14 is another solid 2.75 to 3lb fish and will cull an earlier keeper. It looks like he is right
around 15lbs. Another 4 to 5lb bite and he should be in con- tention.
10:37 a.m. The last couple of fish have gotten bogged down in the wood so Chris checks his line for nicks and decides to change it. From the time he goes into the rod locker and grabs the bulk spool to the time he is back up casting, only about 2 minutes passes.
10:42 a.m. In the last 5 minutes, Chris has landed three solid fish but keepers number 15, 16 and 17 do not help his total and he tosses each of them back.
10:47 a.m. Earlier in the day, Chris mentioned that he planned on running to another spot in the afternoon, but now he’s waffling, “I’m half tempted to stay in here and try to catch another 4lber, but am having a hard time deciding.”
10:52 a.m. Chris sets the hook on keeper number 18 while the boat is hung up on a stump. It won’t help his total, and he quickly tosses it overboard.
10:57 a.m. Keeper number 19 eats the tube next to a small stump. Once again, the fish won’t help him and he con- tinues working back toward the mouth of the cut.
10:59 a.m. The line jumps next to a stump and Chris snaps the rod home but hauls nothing but water.
11:00 a.m. It’s the halfway point in the day, and despite the recent cold front and howling winds, Chris has caught 19 keepers and has about 15lbs in the livewells. If the rest of the day goes this well, he’ll like where he is in the standings after weigh-in.
11:05 a.m. He’s worked back to the entrance of the cut and has gotten a couple more bumps but no more fish in the last 20 yards.
11:10 a.m. Chris hammers back on keeper number 20, a solid 2.75 to 3lb fish that results in a small upgrade. This one also ate the tube as he hopped it next to a stump. He didn’t cull much, but is now definitely at or just over 15lbs.
11:22 a.m. After fishing the area he started in for a couple of minutes, Chris decides to pull up the trolling motor and head elsewhere. “I really need another big one and the sun’s out, so it’s time to go flip a Cricket,” Lane says, referring to one of his favorite baits, the Gambler B.B. Cricket.
11:30 a.m. It takes about five minutes to blow through enough mud, rock and stumps to get back out into the main chan- nel. Once he gets out and tries to get on plane, an alarm goes off in the motor. “It’s running a little hot, must have sucked up some mud in the inlet coming out of there.” He quickly bends an old hook straight and leans out to free the obstruction from the water outlet.
11:40 a.m. After a 10 mile run, Chris sets the boat down in a popular backwater called McDade. The water is much cleaner and deeper in here and he begins to flip the tube to hyacinth mats on the bank. The boat is sitting in about 10 feet of water and the mats have about 4 feet underneath them.
11:55 a.m. After about 10 minutes dissecting the hyacinth mats without a bite, Chris pulls out two rods rigged with Strike King Red-Eye Shad lipless crankbaits. He begins throwing a shad pat- tern around the edges of the hyacinth mats and submerged timber.
12:00 p.m. “I’ve gotta get my head on straight and start catching some more fish,” Chris explains. He has yet to get a bite in this area.
12:02 p.m. Coming around a point, Chris says, “Those are beds,” and points to a couple of lighter patches on the